By Bill Klingbeil
INDIANAPOLIS (March 21, 2011) – If the results from the first half-dozen World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series races of 2012 are any indication of what is to follow, the 78-race season may end up being one of the most competitive ever. Five different drivers have already been victorious, including Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz. With the next event taking place at one of California’s most famous bullrings, Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., TSR’s Steve Kinser has to like the odds of him becoming the sixth winner of 2012.
“The King of the Outlaws” will lead the Outlaws back to Chico for this weekend’s Mini Gold Cup event, which includes races on Friday and Saturday nights. Kinser, driver of the TSR No. 11 Bass Pro Shops/J.D.Byrider/Chevy Maxim, has 22 career WoO victories at Silver Dollar Speedway. Schatz, who drove the TSR No. 15 STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J to victory earlier this year at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., has three career wins at Silver Dollar and finished second in last year’s Mini Gold Cup.
Silver Dollar Speedway first hosted the Outlaws in 1979 and has been a regular stop on the WoO schedule each year in early September for the prestigious Gold Cup Race of Champions. On several occasions, the Outlaws have helped open the season at the quarter-mile dirt oval in Northern California by sanctioning the Mini Gold Cup.
Kinser’s overall statistics in Sprint car racing are off the charts, and his results in Chico follow suit. He won three times during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. The Bloomington, Ind., racer won his first Gold Cup at the track in 1983 and his first Mini Gold Cup in March 1992. Twelve of his 22 wins have come in the prestigious Gold Cup and he’s earned 42 top-five finishes in 68 career starts. Last year, he finished 13th in the Mini Gold Cup and seventh in the Gold Cup.
The first time Schatz circled the famous Chico track was during his 1997 WoO Rookie of the Year campaign. He finished 18th in his first Gold Cup that season and, two years later, he earned a pair of top-fives. The 2004 Gold Cup weekend proved to be his best at the track. He led all 30 laps of his preliminary night feature and all 40 of the Gold Cup finale. The Fargo, N.D., racer returned to victory lane six years later when he scored a preliminary night triumph in 2010. Last spring, he finished a strong second in the Mini Gold Cup and followed that up with a sixth-place run in the Gold Cup in September.
The TSR teammates head to Chico following last Friday night’s event at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., where Schatz finished sixth and Kinser came home seventh. Kinser had some bad luck after he led the first five circuits of the 35-lap A-Feature. Contact with a lapped car put him back to 12th, but he was able to rebound and earn his fourth top-10 of the season. Schatz started fifth, dropped back to ninth, but then made a late bid for fifth during the final laps of the race.
Through six of the scheduled 78 WoO races, Schatz has one victory, three top-fives and five top-10s and leads the 2012 WoO championship standings with 828 points. His consistency has helped him build a five-point advantage over Sammy Swindell in the standings. Kinser, who has four top-10 runs, ranks seventh with 798 points, 30 behind Schatz.
For both nights of racing, the pit gates open at 2 p.m. PDT, and the grandstands open at 5 p.m. Qualifying is scheduled to begin at approximately 6:40 p.m. For tickets, visit www.WorldofOutlaws.com/tickets or call the track at (877) 395-8606.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Steve Kinser, Driver of the No. 11 TSR/Bass Pro Shops/ J.D. Byrider /Chevy Maxim:
One factor that is always a part of the early season is the weather. How hard is to deal with the threat of rain?
“I’ve been doing this so long that it’s just something you’ve got to accept. No one wins when we rain out. Everyone still has to be at the track and, as competitors, you want to compete. No matter if you’ve spent all week getting ready, you are still at the mercy of the weather when it comes to race day. It’s doesn’t matter where you are – California, Texas, Arizona or back home in the Midwest – it’s just something we deal with. Last week, I know everyone worked hard to get Friday night’s show in. They were saying that rain was in the area, so we moved the program along. We did have a slight delay with some rain late in the night, but everyone worked together to finish the program. It’s just part of what we do, so you can’t let it bother you too much.”
You’ve raced at Silver Dollar Speedway for a lot of years. What makes the racing so good there?
“To start with, it’s the size. Short-track racing is always a challenge since things happen really fast and your decisions have to be made quickly. The track has changed a little bit over the years. I know the banking in the corners is different, but it doesn’t take us long to adjust. Any time you go to a track where they have a strong group of regular racers, it’s tougher on the traveling guys. We adapt pretty quickly, but there is still something to be said about racing on someone’s home track. In the spring, it may be a little more of an even playing field because nobody has been racing on the track, yet. It seems like we are either really good there or not quite so good. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races there in my career, but it’s been more than six years (September 2005) since I won a race there. We’ve got two nights to try and get back to victory lane. I know I’ll be pretty excited if we can get the job done.”
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR/STP/Armor All/Chevy J&J:
You race at more than 25 tracks each year and not many of them are the same. How tough is it to prepare for Silver Dollar Speedway?
“Silver Dollar Speedway is definitely unique. Dirt track racing is never the same no matter where you go, so you have to treat each night as a new one. Sure we’ve got a notebook full of what we’ve done there in the past but, like I said, things change. I don’t think they’ve raced there, yet, this season, so it should be somewhat of an equal playing field for everyone. The main thing is to have a good starting point with your car and be somewhere close. It can be a lot of fun to race at Chico and we’ve had some pretty good runs there the last couple of years. Last spring, I felt like we really had a shot at winning the race and that’s what you hope for.”
You are in the midst of four weekends of racing in California. What are your thoughts halfway through that stretch?
“We still aren’t where we want to be. Obviously, things didn’t go well for us at Perris. Last weekend, we knew that weather was going to be a factor. I guess I was lucky to draw a late number in qualifying because the track was really pretty sloppy for the first guys. In the heat, I felt fine, but we’re not to the point where we are really good when it comes to racing with a big group of cars. That is something we have to get better at because, at Chico and next week at Merced (Speedway), traffic is going to be a big part of it. Hopefully, we’ll start out with a good qualifying lap at Chico and build on it. We need to be challenging for wins and the only way right now to do that seems to be starting close to the front. We still have four good opportunities to get to where we need to be.”
About Armored AutoGroup
Armored AutoGroup Inc., headquartered in Danbury, CT, is primarily comprised of the Armor All® and STP® brands. Armor All’s® current product line of protectants, wipes, tire and wheel care products, glass cleaners, leather care products and washes is designed to clean, shine and protect interior and exterior automobile surfaces. STP’s® offering of oil and fuel additives, functional fluids and automotive appearance products has a broad customer base ranging from professional racers to car enthusiasts and ‘‘Do-it-Yourselfers’’. The company has a diversified geographic footprint with direct operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and the U.K. and distributor relationships in approximately 50 countries. For more information, please visit www.armorall.com and www.stp.com.
About Bass Pro Shops Group
Bass Pro Shops -56 retail stores in 26 states and Canada visited by over 109 million people annually, international catalog and internet retailing, American Rod & Gun wholesale division selling to over 7,000 independently owned retail stores worldwide, Outdoor World Incentives also selling Bass Pro Shops gift cards through over 132,000 retail outlets across America and a restaurant division with 26 locations. For more information regarding Bass Pro Shops store locations, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com. To request a free catalog call 1-800-BASS PRO.
Tracker Marine Group – Manufactures and sells Tracker, Nitro, SunTracker, Tahoe, Grizzly and Mako boats through Bass Pro Shops retail stores and over 400 dealers worldwide.
Resort Group – Big Cedar Lodge and other resort properties including restaurants and golf course. Visit www.bigcedar.com for more information.